Tuesday, 27 December 2011

My first "Step by Step" on how to paint a "Aged Wall Sign"

Well, after a lot of requests for a  " how to " on doing aged wall signs, I decided to document a small wall job that I was doing. This is my first attempt at a "Step by Step" so hopefully it's informative and also interesting. Painting signs that look old and weathered is probably one of my favorite types of  sign work. I do a lot of this type of work for the Film Industry and recently have been getting requests from designers and owners of retail stores and restaurants. The process isn't that difficult if you plan it out. The one thing I would suggest is to get some reference material by taking pictures of old signs or look on the Internet. Signs age in many different ways depending on where they are, which way they face (sun or shade) or what type of climate they're exposed to. For the most part, people just want them to look old, but still be legible. My favorite surface to work on is brick, the rougher the better. I find it lends itself well to this type of work. I work mostly with water-based paints, but will use oils when needed. The type of brush I use depends on the surface that I'm working on. When painting on brick, I use fitches and other stiff- haired brushes that I find at the local art stores. Imagine trying to paint a sign on gravel, and you'll have an idea of what it's like to letter on a rough brick wall or stucco. Now that I've covered the basics, lets move onto the job. This project is the final piece of a larger job that I did in the summer for a well-known shoe store called  John Fluevog Shoes. They had found me through the internet and wanted some signs done for their new store opening in Calgary. When doing the construction, they had uncovered a old sign that had been painted on one of the walls that went up through the roof of the building.  It was an old billboard that was done at least 50 years ago, and the building  been built against it. They wanted me to design and hand paint the company logo and another sign with the company slogan, to match the sign they had uncovered, and to match the weathered look also. The project that I'm using for the " Step by Step" is two directional signs for their Museum and Gallery.

This is a picture of a 60' sign that has their company slogan.

 A picture of me hard at work.

Their company logo.

Once the customer approves the design, I prepare a pattern of the design. Depending on the job, I decide if I'm going to lay it out by hand / project it or make patterns. When working on location, I find that making patterns is the best approach, because projecting is not an option due to light issues and space needed to project the layout, not to mention the public and people wanting to make shadow puppets while you're trying to work. You could do the layout on the spot by hand, but why waste the time.

 Step 1: Create the artwork. Here's the approved design.

Step 2: Create a pattern. As I mentioned before, this can be done in a couple of different ways. Because I had done the design on the computer, I used my plotter to generate the pattern.

Here's the pattern before pouncing. For those of you that might not know what making a pounce pattern is, it's to perforate the paper with small holes so that when you rub chalk over it, the design is transferred  to the surface you're going to letter. This can be done with either a pounce wheel or an Electro-pounce machine; the Electro-pounce is by far more fun to use, there's nothing like a good zap of electricity to keep you on your toes.

Here's a picture of the pouncing process. I prefer using the Electro-pounce because it's quick and simple, but a pounce wheel will work just fine.

 Step 3: Apply the pattern to the wall.

 Step 4:  Pounce the design onto the working surface. When working on a rough surface, it's best to apply pressure around the area being pounced. This helps to get a good pounce and prevents the pattern from tearing. I always have a drop-sheet on the ground to catch the pounce chalk and paint from messing up the floor.

Step 5:  Now comes the fun part, start lettering. As I mentioned before, I work mostly with water-based paints. For this type of job, I use regular house paint. Because it's indoors and is supposed to look aged, regular house paint works just fine. I also use a clear mixing base of the same product line to cut the color to make it more transparent. Two tricks that I use are to mute the colors and to make it more transparent, that way it looks old and faded without too much effort.

I find cutting in the letters allows the brick to show through the white. Another trick is to tint the white with some Raw Umber and Raw Sienna to give it an aged look. You can use either paint tints or artist colors for this step.

Step 6:  Now it's time to add some aging. For this sign, all I'm going do to is add a wash to knock back the colors and pull it all together. If I wanted to distress it more, I would use a process called block-aging to bring the background out. I used a lot of block-aging on the large wall sign ( Unique Soles sign) to make it look really weathered. I'm planning on doing a "Step by Step" on block-aging next, so drop in and check it out.

 I mix a wash color to look like muddy water, about 10% paint / 90% water. Then put it into a spray bottle, it's a good idea to pour it through a strainer. Furthermore, if your mix is too thick, the sprayer will plug up. Spray the sign with the wash. I will usually have one sprayer with clean water and one with the age wash. It's not a big deal if you spray the brick, just spray some water and wipe it off.


Once you've applied the wash, use a wet rag ( t-shirt type works best) and with a patting type motion, wipe the age off (make sure to not take it all off). You must do this part quickly or the wash will start to dry. If this happens, you'll need to re- letter the sign and lose money. You can apply a second or third wash coat, depending on how faded you want it to look. If working in a hot environment, spray some water down before applying the wash, or mix a little paint extender into it to slow down the drying.

Step 7:  Finish the job and collect the money, and don't forget to take a picture. This type of job is a lot of fun to do, there really isn't a right or wrong way, so have fun.

Hope this was informative. If you have any question or comments, I would be glad to hear them. Thanks for taking the time to check it out. Watch for more up-coming "Step by Steps"

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Color sample board for the Aultman Taylor project.

 I  thought I would post an update on the Aultman Taylor decal project. Here's a couple of photos of the color and detail study that I did before starting the actual artwork. I've now moved on to the full-sized artwork and will be posting more pictures over the next couple of weeks.  Thanks, comments welcomed

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Gold Leaf workshop with Ken Soderbeck

A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to take a workshop on Gold-Leaf scroll work and creating water transfer decals that were used to decorate antique fire apparatus. A dear friend of mine surprised me with an offer to send me down and learn a skill that is quickly fading into the past. The class was taught by a fellow named Ken Soderbeck,  located in Jackson, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. This was the second and final workshop that he gave. I went down a couple of days early so I could spend some time with him before the class started. From the moment I walked into his studio, I was aw-struck. In front of me was so much eye candy, I had a hard time taking it all in. I was absolutely speechless, which is rare for me. Ken was a wonderful soul and was very open to sharing his knowledge. After a brief introduction, he offered me a chicken sandwich, and we sat and talked for the rest of the afternoon. As it turned out, Ken had been a sign painter before becoming involved in restoration work. This didn't just include the scroll and pinstripe work, but the entire restoration from ground up. I had never seen anything like it before. The detail that companies would put into their equipment was stunning. The workshop was a wonderful experience, and I had the good fortune to meet people from across the states. I was the only Canadian to take part in the class, so I was named the one that traveled the greatest distance in the class. Ken suffered a major loss last year when his studio burnt down, taking most of his collection with it. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the things he lost, can never be replaced. He has since re-built and is being creative as ever. I thought I would share some photos that show Ken's work / pieces from his collection and his studio. If you get a chance, check out some of his work at  http://www.firegold.com/soderbeck.htm. The site actually belongs to a fellow named Peter Achorn, who dedicated a page to Ken's work. Peter is also a very skilled craftsman, and has some beautiful work on his site. Take some time and check it out. Thanks for dropping by.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Scenic paint work on the film set of Passchendaele

I thought I would do a post on some of the film work I've been involved with. Since starting my business in 1987, I've worked as a sign painter / paint coordinator and scenic artist on a number of movies and television shows. For the movie Passchendaele, I held the position of paint foreman, and was responsible for the war-torn town and battle field. On a show of this size, I'll work with a number of different types of artists to create the look. I had a crew of up to 26 people working with me at any given time, from sculptors to scenic painters. My job was to give the crew direction for all the surface textures and scenic paint work, once the construction crew finished their part. That includes all the styrofoam carving /stucco and concrete work and of course the scenic paint work you see. I work closely with the Production Designer to help turn their vision into a reality. It can be quite a challenge at times between working with a large group of people, and the weather, to achieve the finished look. I'll try to post more on this subject in upcoming posts. Hope you find this subject as interesting as the hand lettering side of the blog. The photos of the set below, shows the set at different stages of completion. We do a lot of westerns here in Alberta, so this was a nice change.